The presentation is starting. Dim the lights; it's time for a nap. That's what most audiences are thinking before you even start and learning how to combat that isn't easy. I've spent a lot of time researching how the best presenters do it. Knowing how to use PowerPoint is not enough; it's what you put in, what you leave out and how you present it to your audience that matters. Below are some things I've learned the hard way and a lot of good information cobbled together from many sources. Maybe it will help you the next time you are trying to be memorable.
Dig Deeper: Give your audience that one obscure, contradictory or surprising piece of information that will get them to raise their heads and start thinking. Where do you find something like that? Dig deeper into your field, past the normal search engine scan, and find something that even you didn't know. Maybe it's new research, or an interview with an industry maverick, or a shocking fact. Stimulating your audience to think actually makes them more likely to remember what you are saying.
Avoid Info Overload: PowerPoint expert Cliff Atkinson, author of "Beyond Bullet Points" says, "When you remove all of the interesting but irrelevant words and pictures from a screen, you can increase the audience's ability to remember the key information by 189% and their ability to apply that information by 109%." Edit your presentation for what you can leave out, not what you can add.
Practice Your Delivery: Your audience should forget about you and become absorbed in the subject. Practice your delivery in front of friends or even a mirror until you have removed all the distractions, like nervous tics and uncomfortable pauses. Pay attention to your body language. It shouldn't be non-existent or overly excessive. The best presenters work the stage in a completely natural manner. This is easier said than done but practice does help.
Forget Comedy: Presenters too often feel obligated to make lame attempts at comedy, thinking it will grab the audience's attention. Leave comedy to the professionals. More often than not, all you will grab are some polite chuckles and then the heads will go down. It's okay to throw in a few off the cuff quips but don't overdo it and don't do it at all if it doesn't come naturally to you. Truly effective comedy requires special skills that few of us posses.
Pick Powerful Props: A few simple props can demonstrate a point and make your subject more memorable in the minds of your audience. 'Few' being the key word. For instance, management guru Tom Peters uses a cooking timer to show how quickly factory expansion is occurring in China. Do not go into endless displays and descriptions of your product or services. If your presentation is done right, that will come later.
Minimize You: Cliff Atkinson said it best: "Frankly, your audience doesn't care about the history of your company. They do care about whether you can help them solve the specific problems they face. Always make the audience the main character, who faces a problem that you can help them solve or who has a need that your product can fill."
Speak the Language: Never leave people wondering what you just said. It's always tempting to display your knowledge by throwing in big words or complicated concepts. Don't do it. It might be tempting but why alienate your audience? Always explain terms and acronyms. The number of smart exectutives who aren't up on the latest terminology would surprise you.
Simplify the Slides: Many corporate brains turn off immediately at the sight of yet another PowerPoint presentation. If you want to stand out, don't be like everyone else. Use slides to highlight and emphasize key points. Don't let PowerPoint be the whole show.
The most important result of any successful presentation is what the audience walks away with. If they can't wait to get rid of you, you've failed. If they are talking excitedly about the ideas you've presented them with as they leave the room, and if they remember you the next day, then you've succeeded.